Every mother should be able to look back on her child’s birth with pride, accomplishment, amazement and joy. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Many c-section mothers have been tormented; both by their own internal doubts as well as comments from others. They often feel they are less of a woman and less of a sense of accomplishment because they were unable to give birth the way a woman is “supposed to.” None of this could be further from the truth.
The truth is, sometimes things just don’t go according to plan…
“Have a plan, but keep an open mind.”
This was some of the first advice we received during an early Centering Pregnancy meeting, and it was advice that continued to be repeated. It was good advice. Being a first-time mom-to-be, I had no idea what to expect.
I had what I’d read and what I’d heard, but no first-hand experience. No one ever tells you the real story.
The real story has a lot more to it than morning sickness, swollen feet and ankles, and a long, hard labor ending with a sore and tired mama and a beautiful newborn.
If you would have asked me if I thought I’d have a c-section before I was pregnant, I would have said no way. It wasn’t on my radar. I’m healthy, I’m young, and no one in my immediate family has needed a c-section. Why would I?
I’ll admit, I did casually think once or twice that a planned c-section might have some conveniences. And it’s true that had I opted to choose to have a planned c-section in advance of going into labor, it likely would have been an easier labor. But when a woman has a c-section, it doesn’t mean that’s the way it happened.
Most women are not provided that choice unless they’ve had previous c-sections or there is a concern over a complication. There are women that choose a c-section and doctors who allow it, but not always. These are the rarities.
Each c-section and birth story is unique. None of them are “easy.”
Zachary’s Birth Story-The Induction and labor
My pregnancy was very healthy. I ate well, exercised, and followed the doctor’s advice. I had virtually no morning sickness at any point in those 9 months. Zach was growing at a fantastic rate and we were both doing well. I gained a moderate, normal, amount of weight; about 30-35 lbs.
At 40 weeks, I met with my doctor; a lovely little woman with a genuine passion for her job and real investment in each of her patients. She knew I wanted to give birth naturally, without an epidural, and I didn’t want to be induced.
She advised that while I could wait until 41 weeks to be induced, they would not allow me to wait any longer to reduce any possible risk to the baby. I had to get two tests during that final week to ensure that he was both doing well and that the fluid levels were still substantial enough to sustain him for another week.
Everything checked out and I was cleared to wait until the end of the 41st week.
Unfortunately, he still had no intentions of making an appearance, despite my eating a sickening amount of pineapple in an attempt to jumpstart contractions. So on Sunday morning, at the beginning of week 42, I went to my scheduled induction.
Immediately, more than half of what I wanted and expected to happen during my labor were taken away from me. An induction meant that not only could I not utilize the hospital’s tub for pain management, but I couldn’t walk around either.
Having to be strapped to fetal monitoring devices, I was limited to the bed or a ball that I could sit on near the bed.
Pitocin is a bitch. Let’s just put that out there right now.
For several hours, as they dialed up the dosage, I felt virtually nothing. Then only mild contractions. Then, almost instantaneously, the mild contractions cranked up to intolerable levels.
I was only 3-4 centimeters dilated at that point. It had been 10-12 hours since the beginning of the induction, I was in horrible pain, and Zach was nowhere near being born.
I hadn’t wanted any drugs, but remembering the doctor’s advice to “keep an open mind,” I asked for options. My options were that I could take a medication that would make me very drowsy (the name escapes me) but would help with the pain or I could have an epidural. Still wanting to avoid the epidural, I opted to try the other medication first. At this point, I was still not viewing a c-section as a probable outcome.
Still wanting to avoid the epidural, I opted to try the other medication first. At this point, I was still not viewing a c-section as a probable outcome.
Within minutes, I completely zonked out. I slept for an hour or two, with some super crazy and psychedelic dreams (think swirling colors like a kaleidoscope in the dark) before starting to wake to the returning pain. Eventually, I gave up trying to sleep as the medication wore off and I was in worse pain than before.
To make matters worse, I was getting stiff and sore, and really uncomfortable in the bed. Every time I tried to shift or roll to find some amount of comfort a nurse would rush in and advise that I needed to be on my back because they kept losing the baby on the monitors.
Eventually, the doctor returned to check my progress. I was 4-5 centimeters dilated. In tears and unable to move into any mildly comfortable position, I asked for the epidural.
I was terrified, in awful pain, and still no closer to pushing. My water hadn’t broken and I was barely any further along than I had been hours before. There also seemed to be a growing concern over Zach’s heart rate in reaction to the contractions.
During the epidural procedure, there were complications.
According to the anesthesiologist, my epidural cavity is very narrow. It took several painful tries before it was situated correctly and I couldn’t feel it. Each time he had tried to insert it, it felt like someone was poking at raw nerves and pain shot through my left side.
Once it was finally in, I was relieved. I had a wonderful nurse who held my hands, guided me through, and kept reminding me to breathe. I felt numb, which I didn’t enjoy, but at least I wasn’t in as much pain.
Some time after, my progress was checked again and I was at 8-9 centimeters. Finally. Progress!
The doctor had said that sometimes an epidural can help the body work through the stages quicker during an induction. She broke my water in hopes that it would get me to 10 centimeters and we would be able to start pushing. After a while, Andy and I fell asleep.
I’m not sure how much time passed, but suddenly there were several nurses in my room talking and moving me.
Zachary’s blood pressure had periodically dropped since the beginning of the induction, and it had now dropped to a point that concerned them. The doctor made the call to turn off the Pitocin and let him recover. At that point, the contractions all but stopped and we went back to sleep.
Early in the morning a new nurse came in and turned the Pitocin back on.
The contractions started again and we started to push. I had been fully dilated for several hours but because there were no contractions, I hadn’t been able to push. For about 2.5 hours, I pushed. As crazy as it sounds, Zach pushed back. I threw up. He was both in my birth canal and my esophagus at the same time. I told the nurse I didn’t feel like any of my pushes were making any progress. The nurse went to get the doctor.
For about 2.5 hours, I pushed. As crazy as it sounds, Zach pushed back. Anyone else experience this? It was like he was trying to stay in!
I threw up. He was both in my birth canal and my esophagus at the same time. I told the nurse I didn’t feel like any of my pushes were making any progress. The nurse went to get the doctor.
At about 10:45, the doctor came in to check my progress and confirmed that I was no further along than I was when I started pushing. She could see his head but it wasn’t going anywhere.
It was up to me, but she recommended a c-section for both of our safety. M water had been broken for several hours and she did not want him in there any longer to risk infection.
During my pregnancy, she had told all of us that she had the lowest c-section rate in the hospital. She had also told us that she would do everything in her power to ensure we had the delivery that we wanted and that was natural. Her final words were that if she ever told us that she felt we needed a c-section, to take it seriously as it is not something she recommends lightly.
I had given up my ability to go into labor naturally.
I had lost the option to labor in water or walk for pain management.
The goal to go through the process with no drugs had become out of the question as the pain intensified and the labor stalled in progress.
Now, I was giving up giving birth to Zach the way I intended.
I had given up so much, it wasn’t really all that upsetting. By then, I was more concerned for our health and safety and just having a healthy baby.
I was exhausted, hadn’t eaten in over 24 hours, had gained several pounds in water retention, and was now about to undergo major surgery. To say that I was nervous and scared is an understatement. Not only that, but I knew that the doctor was concerned for Zachary’s safety, and that was the scariest thing of all.
Not only that, but I knew that the doctor was concerned for Zachary’s safety, and that was the scariest thing of all.
In case you haven’t experienced this, it’s terrifying going into an operating room knowing you’ll be awake the entire time. The only thing that makes it scarier is knowing that your baby could be in danger.
This is where I was that morning.
I entered the operating room armed with my loving husband and my sweet anesthesiologist. She was a young girl who truly cared about her patients and for that, I was so grateful.
She helped me feel so much less afraid as she explained processes to me, kept my mind focused, and stayed at the head of my bed the entire time. Had it not been for her, I don’t know how I would have managed.
In the room were more people than you could imagine. Not only was my doctor there, but there was an assisting physician as well.
There were at least two nurses, one of which was the one who had been pushing with me all morning.
And there was an entire NICU team waiting for Zach to ensure that he was healthy and that should anything go wrong, they would be there to take care of him immediately.
The doctor got set up and explained everything as she was doing it. And then I could feel it.
I didn’t feel the cutting, it was different. There was a sharp pain on the side of my abdomen and in the vaginal region. I told the anesthesiologist who continued to add and mix different medications until I was numb again. It took a while. That was pretty scary. The last thing you want when undergoing surgery is to feel it!
Then there was yanking and pulling and lots of pressure all around my stomach. Suddenly, there was a popping sound and terrible pain on the left side of my chest. Then once more followed by more pain.
A few minutes later, the doctor said, “He is a lot bigger than I expected. I don’t think you would have gotten him out even if you’d kept trying.” And then he was out.
Andy saw him first over the sheet and said, “He has red hair! And your angry eyebrows!” Two things we wanted.
She held him up for me to see and lowered the sheet. I was in such a daze and had so many emotions I can only vaguely recall now what I saw.
A wet baby face, tons of red hair, and a mouth trying to cry. I don’t remember if there was sound or not. The anesthesiologist congratulated me and told me I did great.
They whisked Zachary over to the NICU team and checked him out.
The nurse who had been laboring with me that morning commented, “You remember how you said he felt like he was in your esophagus and your birth canal? He probably was. He’s very big!”
The NICU team called Andy over and handed Zachary to him. He got to bring him over to me while the doctor finished closing me up.
The anesthesiologist asked if I wanted to hold him and she held him on my chest so I could. I cried. It had been such an emotional 28+ hours. The doctor said he was perfect. His Apgar score was 9 out of 10.
His birth weight was 9 lbs 12 ounces. He was 21.”
He couldn’t have been healthier.
A baby is a baby, and a mother is a mother, no matter how they came into the world
A c-section is nothing to be ashamed of. C-section mamas are tough. We do what is necessary to make the best decision for ourselves and our unborn child. No mother should be criticized for that.
It’s a sad fact that there is a stigma in our society against mothers who give birth via c-section. Even though in 2014, 32% of all deliveries were cesarean, “C-section Shaming” as it’s commonly referred to, is a real thing.
Some go so far as to claim our babies weren’t really “born” but rather “removed.” So many women suffer from these remarks.
You might remember a few years ago when a religious group claiming women who gave birth via cesarean didn’t really give birth took to Facebook. I don’t know that anyone is sure even now whether it was someone’s idea of a sick joke or the real deal but that’s irrelevant.
The page received thousands of comments. Lots were against the page’s declarations, but many of the comments were in approval and agreeance of what the group had to say. I find that incredibly sad.
For some reason, many women who experience c-sections are viewed with sadness and sympathy.
People look at us as though we’ve “missed out” on giving birth. All of these people can put their sad faces away. We gave birth. Trust me.
Whether you give birth naturally, via c-section, at home, in the water, with or without pain medication, or in any other manner, you are a mother. You gave created life. THAT is something to be proud of.
All of us endured enormous physical demands. Many of us labored for more than 24 hours. Some of us gave in to the pain and asked for medication. Others were able to push through it.
We all gave life to another human being. Think about that for a moment. There is a person in this world that did not exist until you endured.
Their entire being is because of everything in you and the decisions you made throughout your pregnancy and labor.
That is a tremendous accomplishment, no matter how it ended.
We all make mothering decisions before our children are in this world.
For some of us, those decisions come easier and birth plans are followed without a hitch. For others, every single obstacle is thrown our way and we soldier on to bring into the world the healthiest baby that we can.
We should lift each other up, not bring each other down
Many women already see their c-section as somewhat of a failure. They don’t need others validating that thought.
Why is it that so many women feel the need to attack each other when we encounter differences? The stay-at-home-mom vs the working-mom. A natural birth mom vs a c-section mom. The organic, all natural foods mom vs the inexpensive, quick foods mom.
We all have the same common goal; loving our children and bringing them up as best as we can. Different circumstances warrant different styles. No two lives are the same and none of us should judge another on how they raise their children, feed their children, or how their children came into the world.
We get down on ourselves enough. We experience feelings of doubt and inadequacy in our own minds. Let’s stop doing it to each other.
Being a C-Section Mama isn’t something to be ashamed of
No mother should feel as though having a c-section somehow makes her less. Less of a mother, less of a woman…less of anything! In many cases, it’s a last resort decision for the safety and well-being of their baby or themselves.
You did what was right for you and your family. You sacrificed your desires to birth naturally and gave everything you could of yourself, not caring how you would be affected physically and mentally in the end. I can’t think of anything MORE motherly than that.
Own your birth story. Be proud of what you accomplished and that beautiful baby now in the world because of you.
No matter what happened, that’s nothing to be ashamed of!
Have you experienced feeling like a failure after a c-section? How did you overcome it?
If you have your birth story on your blog, please link to it below. Let’s spread the truth and love about bringing life into the world!
-To your Better Life-